SPRINGFIELD, Mo.-- -

Legal immigrants who are permanent U.S. residents in our area hoping to gain American citizenship started a class to help them in that process Monday.  Eight students were brushing up on their English, American history, government and geography, preparing to go through the application process.

Max Dasilva was born and raised in Brazil, but is excited to become a citizen in the country where he chooses to live.  "I think it will make life easier and safer," says Dasilva.

He says it will make traveling easier, relieve the fear of being deported, and let him enjoy the American freedoms.  "For example, you can't have concealed carry if you're not a citizen," says Dasilva.

He's preparing by first taking an Ozarks Technical Community College citizenship class.

"I want to practice and learn a little bit more about American history and politics and government," says Dasilva.

In the class, students work on reading and writing the English language and go over 100 possible questions that could come up in their interview.  "You know, you don't have to be perfect, not at all, but you do have to understand the officer that's giving you the interview," says OTC instructor JoAnn Alburquerque.

OTC offers the class a couple times a year.  Alburquerque says some students need English as a Second Language classes first, but she has seen those determined to gain citizenship reach their goal.

Alburquerque says, "Many have called me, even from the courthouse, saying I passed!  And thank you so much! And almost everybody will come back and say, teacher, it was easy."

For Dasilva, it's about much more than a certificate, but becoming an official part of the country he loves.  "When you become a citizen, make sure that you're not just becoming it on the paper, but you become it in the heart," Dasilva says.

You can apply for citizenship after you've been a legal permanent resident for five years. 
You first have to fill out the application, which includes providing documents and photographs.  You'll have to provide your fingerprints at a location decided by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.  Then you go through an interview where you're asked 10 questions orally and have to read a sentence and write a sentence.  Finally comes the ceremony where you take your Oath of Allegiance and get your certificate. 

The free Citizenship class is three weeks long at OTC.  If you'd like to still join in, Alburquerque says just show up Tuesday morning, July 15th.  The classes will run Monday-Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon in Graff Hall, room 220.  Graff Hall is located at Sherman Avenue and Bob Barker Boulevard in Springfield.

To learn more, contact the OTC Adult Education and Literacy department at 417-447-8860.